Memorial/Unmemorial: a reflection on conflict legacy

Gwen Stevenson’s exhibition ‘Memorial/Unmemorial’, intricately contrasts remembrance and memorialisation in Northern Ireland’s contemporary context.


11:00AM – 5:00PM

Studio Gallery, Belfast Exposed, 23 Donegall Street, Belfast


Artist Gwen Stevenson embarked on a poignant year-long durational performance, marking the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. From February 14, 2023, to February 14, 2024, Stevenson daily crossed the UK/Ireland Border, reciting the names and ages of those whose anniversaries of death, fatal injury, or disappearance coincided with each date.

Titled “Memorial/UnMemorial”, the work intricately contrasts remembrance and memorialisation in Northern Ireland’s contemporary context, serving as both a memorial and an “unmemorial”, it challenges the necessity or absence of a collective memorial, inviting viewers to contemplate complexities.

The film, a culmination of this durational journey, utilises daily footage and a soundtrack, allowing visitors to engage with the profound narrative at their own pace, prompting reflection on the enduring legacy of conflict and the profound impact of memorialization.

Belfast Exposed, renowned for showcasing thought-provoking narratives and visual stories, provides the ideal backdrop for “Memorial/UnMemorial”. The institution’s commitment to inclusivity, engagement, and amplifying diverse voices aligns seamlessly with the essence of the film.

Belfast Exposed’s dedication to truth-telling and confronting challenging realities echoes in the daily recitation of names and ages, emphasising the universal impact of conflict on individuals. This mirrors their commitment to unearthing untold stories, shedding light on the “persistence of the present past”, as eloquently described by Declan Long (Ghost-Haunted Land, Manchester University Press, 2020, p.201).

Delving into the poignant narrative, the screening at Belfast Exposed, Donegall Street, holds particular significance, marking amongst others, the anniversary on 20 March of the Donegall Street bombings in 1972, that killed seven people and injured 148.

The intentional choice of Valentine’s Day underscores the shared belief that every individual is a ‘loved one’ transcending perceived victim hierarchies. In this collaboration, “Memorial/UnMemorial” becomes not just a film screening but a dialogue between the past and present, an ode to remembrance and a questioning of collective memorialisation, mirroring Belfast Exposed’s commitment to stirring conversations around complex narratives.

As the film unfolds at Belfast Exposed, viewers engage at their own pace, reflecting the institution’s ethos of encouraging individual exploration. This collaboration seeks to create an immersive experience resonating with Belfast Exposed’s values of cultural enrichment, social understanding, and artistic expression.

“Memorial/UnMemorial” at Belfast Exposed is more than a screening; it’s a convergence of narratives, a testament to shared values, and an invitation for the audience to reflect on the ongoing legacy of conflict. Together, bridging  the gap between individual stories and collective history, creating a space where the visual narrative becomes a catalyst for understanding, dialogue, and collective remembrance.

A panel discussion including Dr. Gail Ritchie, Dr. Paul Mullan and Gwen Stevenson, exploring the themes of Memorial/UnMemorial will be hosted by Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive of Belfast Exposed, in Gallery 1 on Thursday, 21 March 2024 at 6:00pm.


Gwen Stevenson

Gwen Stevenson has an award-winning visual-arts practice and is recognised for her immersive interactive installations, experimental films, and site-specific durational performances. Her focus lies in exploring the impermanence and fragility of life, particularly in the aftermath of the Northern Ireland conflict and amidst the challenges posed by the climate emergency.

With a diverse background, Stevenson’s socially engaged practice spans site-specific and community contexts in Northern Ireland, encompassing public health, arts in health, regeneration, peace-building, arts & disability, youth arts, community arts, arts for older people, and intercultural arts initiatives. The tangible outcomes of her engagement include public art pieces, events, exhibitions, site-specific installations, short films, and publications within cultural, community, and education spheres.

Gwen Stevenson’s recent accolades include the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Individual Digital Evolution Award and Future Screens Narrative Futures Award. Notably, she represented Ireland at Estudio Abierto in Buenos Aires, South America’s premier contemporary arts festival.


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